Once Smithville got momentum on its side, the Warriors used it and stunned Platte County Thursday evening at Pirates Stadium.
By DAVID BOYCE
The Kansas City Star
Smithville gave up 12 points just 5 minutes into the Missouri Class 4 District game and then scored 40 unanswered points in the first half on the way to a 40-32 victory.
Platte County waited a bit too late to rediscover the form that gave it the early lead. Still, the 20 straight points the Pirates scored in the fourth quarter put a scare into Smithville.
With 4 minutes left, Smithville got the ball back. Behind a strong offensive line, senior running back Nolan Gromacki was able to grind out enough first downs to prevent Platte County from touching the ball again.
It was the first win by Smithville over Platte County since 1995.
“It means a lot, especially this group of seniors,” Gromacki said. “We played them here last year and lost to them in the district championship game. So it means a lot to come back here and get a win.”
The win puts the Warriors, 6-4, into the second round. They will play Wednesday. Platte County, which finished its season at 4-6, battled hard to the very end.
“Really, this group handled adversity in two portions tonight,” said Smithville coach Greg Smith. “Early on, Platte County had the momentum and were doing some good things.
“We had a couple big defensive plays that really turned the tide for us. It is that kind of resiliency that this team has exhibited throughout the course of the year.”
At the onset, it sure looked like the Pirates would be moving on. They went 80 yards in the first drive of the game, scoring on a 50-yard bomb from junior Tyler Cooper to junior Aliek Reed.
Soon after the first score, senior Andrew Minter intercepted a pass that gave Platte County the ball at Smithville’s 11. The Pirates scored two plays later when Cooper hit Zach Hamilton for an 11-yard touchdown, making it 12-0.
The Pirates looked dominant on both sides of the ball.
In a flash, it all turned. Late in the first quarter, the Warriors got great field position and took advantage by going 33 yards in four plays. Their first touchdown came on a 22-yard run by junior Charlie Nihart.
A few plays later, senior Bailey Wilson recovered a fumble, Smithville the ball at the Pirates’ 26. The Warriors quickly found the end zone again on a 14-yard run by sophomore quarterback Mitchell Orr. The extra point by freshman Sam Aviles put Smithville ahead 13-12 with 5.3 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Warriors were only warming up. With 8:57 left in the second quarter, Smithville increased its lead to 19-12 on a 16-yard run by senior Gromacki.
Gromacki must have liked the feeling of getting into the end zone. About a minute later, Gromacki intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.
“We took advantage of some turnovers,” Gromacki said. “We had some big interceptions. I had a pick and luckily was able to return it. Our linebacker took one back to the 2.”
Gromacki’s score was quickly followed by another interception that senior Scott Olson returned 52 yards to the Pirates’ 2. Two plays later, Nihart scored on a 3-yard run, making it 33-12.
Smithville still wasn’t done. The Warriors showed they could put together a long drive when they got the ball on their 13 with 4:23 left in the second quarter and methodically marched down the field.
Orr scored the final touchdown in the first half on a 1-yard run with 20 seconds left. The Warriors went into halftime with a 28-point lead.